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Families Blame Armenian Soldiers’ Deaths in April on Weapons Shortage and Malfunctioning Equipment

Over the past few months, the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor office carried out a study into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Armenian servicemen during the April escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The human rights organization has published a report on its findings, stressing that most of the soldiers' families linked the deaths with a shortage of ammunition and malfunctioning weapons and equipment. Some sections of the HCAV report are presented below:

Soldier No.1: killed on April 2, 2016, in Martakert. The relatives link the large number of victims with an insufficient number of weapons and ammunition, as well as with the lack of investigative data about the start of military operations. According to the relatives, the adversary periodically advances its tanks, resulting in emptying of border villages.

Soldier No. 2: killed on April 2, 2016, in Jabrail. The relatives went to the soldier's place of death and learned that all the servicemen fighting in that area had been killed because they had been caught unprepared and did not have enough weapons to fight the enemy forces. Enemy tanks were constantly moving in their direction could not have gone unnoticed. The soldier's relatives therefore believe that there was in intent in officials' lack of effort to strengthen the combat positions and provide the servicemen with proper ammunition.

“The Jabrail positions were totally neglected, the tanks were malfunctioning. A number of faulty tanks were stuck on the road from Kubatlu in Jabrail, many of which had been filled with water instead of fuel and failed when the soldiers started the engine to move to the front,” the relatives said, adding that the killed soldiers' fellow servicemen had told them during their visit that they had “a lot to say” but did not dare to because they were still serving.

Soldier No. 3: killed on April 2, 2016, in Jabrail. The family said their son and a large number of his fellows had died because of not having sufficient weapons.

Soldier No. 4: killed on April 2, 2016, in Jabrail. The relatives said the soldiers had been caught off guard by the enemy forces and fought against them until managing to contact the commanders at 7:30 am on April 2 and asking for help and advise on how to proceed. The soldiers, however, did not receive any response. 

Soldier No. 5: killed on April 2, 2016, in Talish. According to the father, his son, along with fellow servicemen, had immediately started to fight for the seized positions, two of which they managed to successfully reclaim. Then, the father said, the soldier's machine gun began to malfunction and he asked another gunner's permission to take his weapon and go into battle. The latter refused, but, nevertheless, the soldier tried to repair his own gun over the night and joined his fellows in retaking the third and most important position the following morning. After the soldier's death, his fellows had nearly reclaimed the position but were forced to retreat after receiving a corresponding order from commanders. To date, the father said, the aforementioned position is under enemy control.

Soldier No. 6: killed on April 2, 2016, in Jabrail. The father complained about a weapons shortage and malfunctioning military equipment. He visited Karabakh on April 2-10 and personally witnessed the situation. “Why did not the tanks go to the front? Because they did not have batteries. IFVs could not reach the positions because they had been filled with water and not fuel. Volunteers were not provided with sufficient ammunition: each of them was given 60 bullets – enough to hardly last them 1,5 minutes.

Soldier No. 7: killed on April 2, 2016, in Jabrail. The soldier's fellow servicemen told his parents that he had fought an enemy soldier on his own until 9 am on April 2, making his companion go back to the unit. The father is convinced that the situation would have been different had army resources not been embezzled and spent instead on proper military equipment.

Soldier No. 8: killed on April 3, 2016, in Jabrail. Went into battle against 5 enemy tanks and managed to knock them out on a 1970 tank. According to the soldier's brother, the soldier's staff and he had been fighting on the No. 321 tank – the vehicle which had been assigned to him – but his body was subsequently found in a different tank.

Soldier No. 9: killed on April 2, 2016, in Martakert. The relatives said the soldier and his fellows had been outnumbered by the enemy and did not have enough weapons and ammunition to fight back.

Soldier No. 10: killed on April 2, 2016, in Talish. The family said the unit had run out of ammunition and were not provided with new rounds.